This is a continuation of my story, Kayaker Pulls Diamond From Pocket and Proposes on Green Narrows After Rescue. This part was written by Jessie, from her own perspective, in response to what we are now calling ‘Proposalgate.’
I was stranded in the middle of the river, freezing cold, humiliated and exhausted. My only solace came from the fact that we recovered the boat I had borrowed and it wasn’t completely destroyed by its solo mission down Gorilla. I was also incredibly relieved to see two other kayakers since we hadn’t set shuttle. But mostly I felt like an idiot and was tired and cold. “Aren’t we too old and experienced to find ourselves in a situation like this,” I thought to myself. Which is silly, of course, you’re never too good or too smart to make a mistake.
As I was having a philosophical discussion with myself about the valuable lessons one learns during challenging times, David was busy acting erratically and exhibiting what I considered to be extreme thoughtlessness. At this particular moment our boats, bodies, and paddles were in various states of disarray while our fully extended throw ropes floated from one side of the river to the other, completely tangled. I was in no mental condition to question his logic at the time, but he kept insisting I stand up on a slippery rock above a river feature that looked to me like certain death. And he was really distracted. And seemed strangely happy. Little did I know what he had been planning for weeks.
I turned towards him calmly and looked him straight in the eye — the only way I knew I could communicate for real seriousness (something we had been working on). “David, I don’t understand what you want from me right now.” Which actually meant “David!! What on earth are you doing, why are you trying to get me killed, and most importantly, why the hell is some guy over there collecting evidence (taking pictures) of my swim!?!?”
David turned away while I was talking. I was super frustrated, but accepted the temporary defeat of our communication strategy and went into self-preservation mode. Now I was just going to do my best to ignore everything he did. What I didn’t realize is that he was nervously digging a diamond ring out of his pocket while simultaneously queuing our engagement photographer and trying to keep me in position. Without giving it all away.
I had both hands on one end of the rope, pulling the still-submerged kayak dangling from the other end closer, one hand after the other. I tried to focus. All I wanted to do was get back in the boat, paddle downstream, and get off the river as quickly as possible.
I honestly don’t remember what happened next very well. It kind of all blurred together. But at some point I looked down at David and he was on one knee looking up at me, smiling. I still didn’t realize what he was doing until he waved the ring in front of my face. Then I went into shock.
I think David had to ask me a few times whether I would marry him before I actually answered. I distinctly remember his final plea: “Jessie, please just put the ring on your finger, I REALLY don’t want to lose it.”
“Yes. Yes. Yes.”
I still didn’t know to what degree David had this whole thing planned. I remember asking him if the two kayakers were deliberately staged, and if so, what time the helicopter was supposed to show up with champagne and lobster and hooks to tow our boats. Surely he didn’t expect me to finish paddling the river with the most beautiful ring in the world on my finger, right?
A few of the longest and happiest minutes of my life passed. David and I laughed with our accidental witnesses and I was still shaking from a combination shock and starvation when I finally got back in my boat. And just like that our little group was paddling out, chasing the sun as dusk settled in.
As we approached each rapid, I prayed I wouldn’t swim again. Then I would just stare at my ring during the calm sections in between. Before this moment, I didn’t even think I liked diamonds. Oh how quickly I turned into “that girl!” And this diamond was my best friend. My BEST Friend.
The ring wasn’t on my finger long when I started to wonder if I could get away with whining and complaining now that David and I were engaged. Kidding! I’ll obviously wait until we’re married for that.
Anyway, this chapter of our story ends here. We made it off the river, back to our car, and eventually back to West Virginia. Where we celebrated. But the first thing I did was look at the pictures. The SD card on David’s camera was almost full, so his impromptu on-location photographer only captured a few – but every single one of them is priceless.